Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jazz run streak to 5 games

In Toronto, the Utah Jazz executed down the stretch again and left with a 92-88 (box score) victory over the Raptors. The win pushed their winning streak to 5 games and an overall record of 7-2. It was a pretty tight game all along, but toward the end of the game, the Jazz executed better to win to hold on to the lead.

The difference in the game? The box score would say the game was pretty even, but the Jazz shot the ball better (43% to 39%), got to the line more (29 attempts to 12), and Chris Bosh was extremely quiet with only 12 points. All that is accurate, but what the numbers don't clearly say, is that this game was there for the taking. The Raptors, either by poor on the court leadership or lack of coaching, didn't do what they should have done to try and take it.

Let's start with leadership and the point guard position. T.J. Ford did not get it done. The big disclaimer, since I don't see him play much - is that he could have had an off night, or Deron Williams could have simply been too much for the guy - but regardless, some of his decisions are ridiculous. Consider late in the game when the Raptors needed a 3 to tie, he simply refused to run a play and pass the ball to a better shooter (hello Kapano). Sure, Ford had made a 3 a few minutes prior, but that was an off balance fall away shot that was luck and maybe falsely built his confidence. His line of 13 points and 8 rebounds make it sound like he was a big contributor, but his 5 of 17 shooting (1-6 from3-pt range) and inability to get the ball to other people at big times reveal him as a weakness on this team. OR - of course, just a rare bad night.

Let's look at coaching. On the bright side, the Raptors are scrappy on defense, they don't give up, and rebound very well. In fact, out rebounding the Jazz 50-46 says a great deal about how they work. That said, Sam Mitchell, last season's coach of the year (never mind it should have been Sloan - so says the biased Jazz writer) doesn't seem to be utilizing his biggest asset. The only guy on this roster that strikes fear in the opponents is Chris Bosh, yet Bosh only took 12 shots? Keep in mind, he was guarded much of the night by Boozer - who isn't the best defender at this position. A fundamental question - why does Bosh spend so much time on the perimeter? Bosh is off to a slow start this year, and since I've heard nothing about health, I can only think that the coach might want to consider an offense that runs through his star.

Quick shots:
  • Andrei Kirilenko is on a tear, consider his averages over the last 4 games: 12 ppg., 9.3 reb., 9.8 apg., 3.3 stl., and 2.5 blks. A big thing about Kirilenko is his passing. He now has 5 games with 8 or more assists - out of 9 games, and is averaging 7.1 apg - which is out of this world for any forward not name Lebron. Great to see AK and the Jazz rewarded for their patience and effort to work things out.
  • Vegas had the Raptors favored by 2. I would have guessed Utah favored by 2-3. Apparently, Vegas wasn't impressed with the 6-2 Jazz. Toronto entered the game at 4-3, but just 1-2 at home.
  • Kris Humphries - a former Jazzman, seems to have found a home with the Raptors - and put up 14 big rebounds off the bench.
  • The 92 points scored by the Jazz were a season low (previous low was 95), and only the second time they've been held to under 100.
  • Matt Harpring missed the game with the flu. AK and Giricek took care of the extra minutes in fine fashion.
Next stop: Cleveland on Friday. This game should be a tense and tight game. The Jazz squeaked out a close game last week in Salt Lake City. Another reason for interest - the town of Cleveland still gets very up for Mr. Carlos Boozer. To prep for this game, I recommend Cavalier Attitude -a great NBA blog on the MVN.

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